25 March 2016

This Is What Matters

It's that time of year again—time for many in professing Christendom to exploit the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as it is at Christmas, in the visible church today, the days surrounding Resurrection Sunday are often filled with narcissistic self-celebrations. The seeker-sensitive megachurches might well be more advised to refer to their services as "ME-ASTER Celebrations" rather than attempting to cloak them in any sort of Christian garb. As an example, see how one megachurch local to this blogger is advertising its 2016 "Easter Experience":

The sad irony is that these churches actually could make Easter more about "me" and "you" if they would bother telling people why it is they need a Savior in the first place. But then, the message that man is sinful, wicked, depraved, and unable to save himself is not a very culturally friendly thought. The idea that man must repent of sin and trust in the righteous and holy Lord alone for salvation just doesn't mesh well our sinful, prideful nature.

This 'n' That

Well, it feels as though I should have an Easter or Good Friday themed introduction, but most of my thoughts on that will likely be expressed in a separate post to be published later today or tomorrow.

Wait. Never mind, I take it back. Let me rant a bit here and save that next post for some slightly more edifying thoughts.

What has evangelicalism done to the commemoration of our Lord's death and resurrection? We are quick to chastise the world for its unsurprising worldliness, and yet, if we are honest, the visible church has undoubtedly perverted and adulterated the Easter season far more than has the world.

Worst Easter church sign ever. (Source)
Not only have we adopted the world's festivities (Easter bunny at church, anyone? Egg drop? Easter egg hunt after Sunday service?), but we have astonishingly had the nerve to twist this celebration into one of narcissistic self-celebration.

Megachurches with their weekend "experiences" now want you to become part of the Easter story. Christ dying and rising again isn't relevant enough, you see, no, we must also play a role lest our self-esteem be left wounded. Easter must be about me or it isn't worth my time.

It's disgusting. It's despicable. It's abhorrent. It's shameful. Yes, we should be ashamed of ourselves. Such behavior is not actually "reaching people far from God," no matter what the suave fella with the gel-shellacked hair says from the stage. No, it is further damning them by presenting to them a false gospel. Sing all the choruses you want. Evoke so many emotions that you have to mop the tears off the floor afterward, but if you have not proclaimed the true Gospel and called people to repentance and faith, then you have failed.

But what do I know? I am, after all, just a blogger.

So back to the business at hand. Before you scurry off to your church's Easter Extravaganza (yes, I am being facetious), take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

18 March 2016

This 'n' That

My daily commute takes me past a lot of different churches. From large Roman Catholic churches, to small Pentecostal congregations, I pass by a bizarre spectrum of places of worship each day. One of these church buildings catches my eye nearly daily. With its old but stately stature and vines climbing its sides, its double doors are oddly inviting.

It finally occurred to me this week to see if this small congregation had a website, for in spite of the building's endearing qualities, other characteristics betrayed the likelihood that this would not be a doctrinally sound church. I did not expect, however, to Google the name of this church and receive a slew of news articles describing a financial scandal from the past. Fraud and deceit, and claims of cult status apparently define this wayward church in the mind of the community.

How sad. Not only is this place lacking in doctrine (evident in part by the fact that the former pastor was a woman), but it is now, in the eyes of the world, identified with shameful illegal activity. We as Christians are not saved by our behavior, but we are accountable for it. And when we identify ourselves with Christ, and yet engage in such activity, we naturally blaspheme and disparage the name of our great Savior.

Of course, this is not only true of prosecution-worthy crimes, but of "small" or "minor" sins as well, like lying, mocking, grumbling, or general worldliness. Do our lives reflect the salvation that is ours in Christ? While we cannot "be the message," for only one message saves and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ, we can nevertheless be worthy ambassadors of this news. Dear reader, trust that as I write this, I am exhorting myself as much as I am you. May we each day pray for the enabling power of the Holy Spirit to spur us on to holiness, and help us strive to walk in a manner worthy of our great calling.

With that, here are a few more recent headlines for you to peruse as you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

14 March 2016

May Our Sole Aim Be Sound Doctrine

John Calvin
John Calvin's exposition of the book of Titus is an important read for all Christians, not just pastors. Though Titus is known as one of the pastoral epistles, written by the Apostle Paul to Titus as he ministered in Crete, it nevertheless is part of God's holy and inspired Word, and thus contains truths and treasures for all believers.

In his treatment of the text, Calvin is thorough and blunt. He exhorts, encourages, and challenges. Most importantly, his teaching of this epistle strives to cause one to love and honor Christ and His Word more.

When we read the words below, we realize that the softening of the gospel in order to make it more palatable to sinful ears is nothing new. It was prevalent in Calvin's day and it was present in the early days of the church. Let us remember, then, the truth bestowed on us by the Reformer as he says, "When we read God's word and when we come to church, may our sole aim be to be taught sound doctrine." Indeed, may we desire to be inundated with this sound doctrine each time we open our Bibles and each time we enter the church's doors, and may the explanation of these truths bring us to a greater place of praise of our great and holy God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

11 March 2016

This 'n' That

Let's face it, many Christians seem to dread the early months of the year, mainly because they feel like their Bible reading plan of choice is punishing them by forcing them to wade through the Old Testament for so many weeks. I am thankful, however, that in the early days of my Christian life, I was studying the Pentateuch and it was there that I came to a deep realization and appreciation of just how holy our God truly is. This, in turn, led to a swift, even deeper understanding of the dreadful seriousness of sin and my own sinfulness. If possible, these realities became more real to me than they had at the moment of my conversion not too many months earlier. As a result, I treasure those dear books of Moses.

So if you've not turned to Leviticus lately, why not do so? Realize your lowliness and God's loftiness. Realize just how wonderfully holy, pure, and perfect is the One whom we serve. And come to a refreshed place of gratitude for the gift of salvation that is found only in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone was the perfect sacrifice to atone for those wretched sins that enslaved us. Let the soberness of these early biblical texts bring you to a place of praise before your God.

And once you've done that, what follows here will seem trivial, and perhaps some of it indeed is. Nevertheless, a Friday round-up is required around these parts, so take a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

06 March 2016

04 March 2016

This 'n' That

Okay, it has been a long and arduous week. I am sure I am not the only one who is ready to see it end! And all that stress and craziness has me craving some serious sugar. Under the circumstances, then, it seems fitting that I forgo any further discussion, even lame sermon illustrations, to simply present you with this:

And this:

Mmm...cookies. I do love cookies more than anything else.

Well, you are welcome. Now, go find yourself something equally as delicious and enjoy it bite by bite as you browse your week in review (kind of):